Teen murder suspect captured at Walmart; breast cancer patient mistaken for fugitive

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Kootenai County jail booking photo of Whitley Evenson, Oct. 7, 2016

A 35-year-old local breast cancer patient was handcuffed and questioned at a Post Falls Walmart Friday after law enforcement officers thought she was a teen fugitive wanted in Missouri.

The fugitive, Whitley Evenson, 18, from Independence, Mo., is charged with murdering her six-week-old child last year.

Evenson was later taken into custody Friday afternoon in the parking lot of the Walmart on Mullan Avenue.

The breast cancer patient, Erin Peters, who underwent a double mastectomy in August, said she stopped at the Walmart after completing a radiation treatment. She said she was shopping in the girls department when a local law enforcement officer working with the FBI and the North Idaho Violent Crimes Task Force grabbed her by both arms and told her she was under arrest.

Peters said she was handcuffed and questioned for about 45 minutes.

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“I felt humiliated in front of Walmart, crying,” Peters said.

She said the task force members said they believed she was the Missouri fugitive because her hair is very short. Peters said she told them it was shaved because of her cancer treatment, and told them to call the Kootenai Health Cancer Center for confirmation.

Before letting her go, the officers “ransacked everything,” went through her purse, her phone, and her Facebook account, she said.

“The way they went about this was so wrong,” Peters said.

FBI Supervisory Senior Resident Agent Richard Collodi said members of the North Idaho task force were asked to assist the U.S. Marshals Service in locating the fugitive whose physical description was very similar to Peters’. They were told the fugitive’s hair was very short or recently shaved, he said.

The task force had specific information the subject would be at that Walmart, Collodi said, and she was believed to be traveling with a male associate. The man with Evenson was also taken into custody, and he was carrying weapons, per Collodi.

Collodi said he feels bad for Peters. He said he understands it was uncomfortable for her, and that she was inconvenienced.

“But at the same time, we had to be sure,” he said.

Suspects often come up with creative stories to avoid arrest, he said, “I’m confident she was treated professionally.”

Evenson was booked into Kootenai County jail until she is extradited back to Jackson County, Mo. where she’s charged with second-degree murder in the death of her baby in September 2015. Prosecutors accused Evenson of suffocating the infant. She was out on bond when she failed to appear for a court hearing in July.

The U.S. Marshals Service Task Force in Kansas City has been searching for Evenson for the last two months. The search involved deputies and task force officers in four states.

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Staff writer Ryan Collingwood contributed to this report.

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Maureen Dolan can be reached at mdolan@cdapress.com or on Twitter @MaureenCDAPress.

Erin Peters

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